Distance learning has been around for a long time, decades in fact but, it is only in recent times that it has become a popular phenomenon. But what benefits are there to this type of learning?
Distance learning – also known as open learning – started life as an experiment. It was touted as a possible solution to make learning accessible to those beyond school age. It fitted well with the notion of lifelong learning. We never stop learning but the education system of old was a one chance saloon: flunk your O levels or A levels and there was nothing to be done.
As well as a change in attitude, there has been significant technological changes too. Learning is no longer seen as an activity that must or should be carried out at a desk with a teacher or lecture in control of and delivering lessons, lectures or tutorials. Students could access information via learning portals, they could read the latest research papers online and contribute their knowledge and understanding much easier too.
Educational value shifted too. No longer was college or university seen as the only way to learn and develop. Learners were taking more responsibility for their own learning. Education, from GCSE to A level to certificates, diplomas, degrees and beyond, had come full circle.
Today, thousands of students sign up for and successfully complete all kinds of distance learning courses. As well as being a ‘hobby’ or a course of interest, there are any students who use these courses as a springboard to new careers as well as further education courses.
But why opt for distance learning?
Left school with a few GCSEs or maybe you have 10 at A*? Do you have A levels? What about vocational courses?
In many ways, learning distance courses level the playing field because entry requirements can something be nothing more than commitment and passion. That said, commitment and passion can be everything in some fields of study, more important in some ways that A levels or a vocational course passed with merit.
These open courses allow you the opportunity to explore the subject area. They are a chance to see if the field of study or the subject is what you thought it would be. For many, it is a process to see if they are suited to the subject area or even if they have the time, the energy and the space to commit to studying.
Widening accessibility has long been a priority in education and distance learning courses are part and parcel of this drive to encourage people to carry on learning and developing.
#2 Freedom of Time
Distance learning courses will stipulate the length of time that a course, worth a certain amount of credit, should take. How you, the learner, organise this time is down to you.
Most distance learning providers will offer a 12-month support package for courses but again, how long you take to complete the course is down to you.
Freedom to plan your own study and learning time empowers you to become an active learner, an important skill not just in education but in the world of work too.
#3 Freedom of Pace
Want to revisit a module or take longer to work through a unit? You can do so with distance learning but in some learning settings, the teacher sets the pace so that it keeps pace with the schedule. This can lead to anxiety and when pressure mounts, students walk away.
With distance learning, you set your pace.
#4 Freedom of Place
Where and when do you study best? Is it at the kitchen table at midnight or do you enjoy an early morning session of learning, with the cat for company on the comfy couch?
At one time, learning, or the bulk of it, took place at a desk from 9 until 3 on weekdays. Now you can spend Sunday afternoon reading and annotating text or Friday night enjoying a glass of wine whilst you plan an assignment.
You study when, where and how you feel most comfortable.
#5 Stepping Stones
For some people, completing a course on nail art is for their own consumption and interest. For other students, complete a distance learning teaching assistant course helps to cement their place in their workplace, as well as an opportunity to look forward to an upward career step.
Education is valued by the learner, whether it is an interesting course or a vocational one. It is a stepping stone on your journey.
And finally, learning should be enjoyable and fun, not hours of grey drudgery reading books and struggling to write an assignment.
That said, there will be parts of learning that are challenging but, isn’t that part of the enjoyment of all learning?